Inside a nondescript building nestled in a business park in New Castle, Delaware, a small group of scientists were testing water samples recently, to see whether they had been contaminated by the very large class of toxic chemicals known as PFAS.
Chief scientist Chuck Powley walked into a noisy room — it sounded as if airplanes were flying overhead. He pointed to the equipment helping him and his colleagues achieve their goals: to identify PFAS and find a way to remediate and destroy them.
To the lay observer, the devices looked like contraptions connected to test tubes, bottles, and wiring. In actuality, they were tools for precision chemical analysis.
‘This right here, this is what’s called liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry. And this … was commercialized around 2000. Before 2000, the tools to look at PFAS at very low levels did not exist,’ said Powley, a former DuPont chemist. ‘So once this was commercialized, we could then look for part per trillion levels of the PFAS and that was in water and soil and blood. And that’s the reason why, even though PFAS have been around since the 1950s, we really didn’t know we had a problem until this was commercialized. So this was a game-changer, and that was around the time I got into the PFAS field as well.’ Read more…